I just moved to Naples, Italy

Napoli - view from castel sant' elmo
Napoli – view from castel sant’ elmo

Since the beginning of October 2017, I have been living in Naples, Italy, with my girlfriend. Many people say Rome is Italy’s heart and Napoli is its soul, so I will report back on that. While joining the Apple Developer Academy Master Class, continuing my PhD research and working on some projects remotely, we plan to travel around Campania and the Amalfi coast to make the most out of the trip.

So far I can attest to the many reports of Napoli being busy, loud and somewhat messy while being unique, picturesque and enjoyable at the same time. With sunny days and temperatures around 25° Celsius it is a quite nice place to be in October. As I expect the winter to be pretty mild, I am looking forward to an unique experience over the next few months.

Also, I am pretty sure that I have never eaten any tomatoes quite like those to be found around here. They are called “Pomodorino del Piennolo del Vesuvio” or just Pomodorino Vesuviano, are available at almost every shop one can go to and are just awesome.

Over the next few weeks, I will report back with some more impressions from the Amalfi coast and the area of Campania and might elaborate a little on why I joined the Apple Developer Academy.

Virtual Drumming with Freedrum

I recently received the Freedrum virtual drumming kit, which was one of the most interesting kickstarter campaigns over the last few years for me personally. I was supposed to get it for my birthday and have been waiting for quite some time to try it out.

freedrum


Freedrum sensors as MIDI controlers

Basically Freedrum created motion sensors with bluetooth connectivity that can be attached to drum sticks as well as shoes for tracking hand and foot movement. The sensors are connected via bluetooth to a mobile device, an iPhone 7 in my case. With the corresponding iOS app the sensors can be calibrated and allocated to right and left hand as well as right and left foot. One might also use the Android app, the Windows 10 or the MacOS app instead.

The connected sensors can then be used to control a MIDI instrument in apps such as Garage Band, Logic X Pro, Ableton Live 9, DM1 Drum Machine, Groovebox etc. and utilised to play virtual drum sets. For people traveling a lot this might be a good option to keep on grooving on the road. Although Freedrum advertises the sensors in live band situations, I somewhat doubt that this will be a dominant usage for the devices. Since I am living in an apartment with no option to play a analog or electronic drum set, the sensors are a nice option to keep practising.

Although I was pretty excited in the beginning, the sensors lack functionality and the software still seems to be pretty beta. I am willing to wait a few more months for updates and keep you updated. Until then, you might want to check them out for yourself… In any case, it is an awesome idea.


OneStep 2 Instant Camera introduced by Polaroid Originals

As of September 13th 2017, The Impossible Project is called Polaroid Originals. Apparently the company’s largest shareholder acquired the Polaroid brand and corresponding intellectual property. That seems fitting since the 2008 founded company practically saved Polaroid instant photography.

After Polaroid stopped producing instant film, The Impossible Project stepped up to produce new film material. They acquired a legacy Polaroid factory and developed new instant film materials for vintage Polaroid camera models. In addition to the Impossible Instant Lab (allowing Polaroid instant photos to be produced from digital images with a hardware exposure unit and a corresponding smartphone app), the company introduced a newly designed Impossible I-1 camera in 2016. In September 2017, the rebranded company introduced the Polaroid OneStep 2 instant film camera.

Polaroid Originals OneStep 2


New OneStep Instant Camera Model

Building on the unique original OneStep design by Polaroid, Polaroid Originals created a simple, easy-to-use camera with integrated flash and rechargeable battery. Apart from modern build quality and lens improvements, the battery is the biggest change for most users. Before, the battery was included in every cartridge of instant film, a factor making instant film cartridges more expensive, apart from environmental implications.

Polaroid Originals now offers film cartridges for vintage 600 series, SX-70 series, Spectra series as well as for 8×10 and the newly introduced I-Type cameras. A cartridge of 8 color or black and white instant photos for the I-1 or OneStep 2 costs around 16€ (compared to 18-20 € for vintage Polaroid camera models). That isn’t cheap. Still Polaroid offers a very unique photography experience, that is very much worth the money.

Over the past years, I experimented with every product the Impossible Project came up with and followed the company’s development from their early days on Kickstarter. I am very happy that it turned out to be a sustainable business and am glad that the legacy of Edwin Land lives on in Polaroid Originals.

Some notes on notes

As far as taking notes go, I am not sure what the best setup might be for me. Although I consider the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil to be the best digital option I have used so far, I was still not getting rid of paper based notes. This is a pain more often than not, since it takes a long time to digitise the notes in an efficient way. This might not be necessary in any case or for all notes, but still more often than one might think.

notes

Since I ditched my iPad Pro for a Macbook Pro anyway, I am back to the issue of finding a solution that works for me. Even sticking with paper based notes won’t do the trick because whenever I start to use a notebook, I stop using it at some point due to the technology gap.


There are many options

Since I am deeply committed to the Apple ecosystem (not just emotionally), the Lenovo Love Book is nothing I even want to try. Also, I am not convinced by options such as the Moleskine Smart Writing Set (although I would be willing to try it at a much lower price point), Evernote Notebooks (in collaboration with Moleskine), Livescribe Smart Pen, IRISNotes 3 Smart Pen or even the beautiful but not so feature-rich Augmented Paper by Montblanc (which apparently is utilising Wacom technology).

If only this would work, but it doesn’t. Although the pen seems to work quite well, the Montblanc companion iOS app lacks features to use the product in an efficient way and there is no convenient way to transfer the notes to a desktop machine. There are many other digital note taking options to choose from of course, all of which are not meant for me.


reMarkable

The only thing I really like so far is the reMarkable tablet. It is a sunlight readable, monochrome electronic ink tablet with a canvas display at 226 DPI and a promised latency below 60ms and most importantly paper-like surface friction. It claims to be the solution to all of my problems:

“The paper tablet for people who prefer paper. Here to replace your notebooks, sketchbooks and printouts. Paper-like reading, writing and sketching with digital powers.” Source: reMarkable.com


Compared to an iPad the features are very limited of course. But still it seems to fit my needs in terms of reading and taking notes. Unfortunately, it will be quite pricy with $719 and a limited time offer of $479 until the product’s introduction in fall 2017. Without trying it out for myself I am not willing to take the risk of ordering it right away. 

The team bypassed kickstarter and just offered pre-orders on the product’s website to finance its development, which is why I have doubts whether the reMarkable tablet can actually deliver what it promises. The preliminary reviews are quite good, so I will definitely give it try once it hits local stores.

This might lead to an update on taking notes. We will see.

Update on working with an iPad Pro

Back in November 2016 I wrote about my decision to work with an 9,7″ iPad Pro exclusively. I stopped using any other computer, sold all my Mac equipment and only kept the accompanying Apple Watch and iPhone. I opted for a Logitech CREATE keyboard and the Apple Pencil and hoped that this step might change my entire tech outfit.

iPad Pro and Apple Watch

I kept using this setup for about 9 months and was quite satisfied with the iPad Pro’s performance even under advanced workloads. Over the last months I traveled quite a lot and considered the iPad Pro a tolerable load despite the bulky keyboard enclosure. It truly was a glimpse at the post-pc era and almost felt like I could finally make it happen.

-> tl;dr


Back to the Macbook Pro

Still I decided to sell the iPad Pro and go back to working with a regular Mac. I did a 2 week test run with Apple’s 12″ Macbook (before the hardware update announced during WWDC 2017) and although I really like the form factor and rosé gold option, the performance was rather disappointing. So in the end, I ended up were my journey began, with a 13″ Macbook Pro. So why you ask?

Among the main reasons are things like app switching, sandboxed data silos, drag and drop and more importantly limited functionality in pro apps. During WWDC 2017 Apple announced new features for iOS 11 on the iPad, such as the Files app (potentially solving some of the pain surrounding sandboxing), the new dock and drag and drop implementation. I think these are overdue features and I highly appreciate the effort towards a more pro operating system. Still I think there is a lot to be done in order to make the iPad a true desktop replacement (… unfortunately I might add).


Workflows on the iPad Pro

For one I would have expected that Apple’s acquisition of Workflow would enrich the possibilities for advanced work on the device. But so far, no improvements are in sight… and this is a compromise to begin with. The Workflow app allows the automatisation of long click-through processes, which is all good but the problem is that automation is required for rather simple stuff in order to make up for lost time in comparison to working on a desktop machine.

The more app switching and file manipulation is involved, the longer everything takes. This is not due to the iPad Pro’s computing power (which is amazing), the user input in iOS just takes forever compared to MacOS. This is no issue while surfing the web or writing a blog post but even creating keynote presentations with loads of images and videos from the web takes much longer than it should.

Simplest image editing involves various apps and might even entail several up- and downloads to cloud storage solutions such as iCloud, Dropbox or Google Drive. Not considering data plan implications, this takes forever and more often network issues disrupt the process wether you are using the workflow app or doing it manually.

ACERE 2017 slides


Pro Apps on the iPad Pro

And than there are pro apps… or rather lack thereof. Although the iPad Pro is advertised as a desktop replacement device and surely delivers in terms of computing power, memory and battery life, most developers of 3rd party pro apps are falling short of delivering desktop class functionality to their apps. Also many web based solutions are not working properly in either Chrome or Safari on iOS, making advanced edits difficult (e.g. Google Spreadsheets, Dexter or even WordPress).

The apps I used (or had to use) range from Keynote, Microsoft Office and iMovie to Adobe Creative Cloud Apps, AutoCAD and Omnigroup apps to name a few. All of these lack features they provide on a desktop machine and all of them take much longer for many similar tasks even if their UI is highly optimised for touch interaction and Apple Pencil input.

In addition I had to do some coding over the past few months and got tired of the limited options in iOS apps. Even for little css/js edits I prefer Coda for MacOS over the Coda iOS App, not to speak of my recent efforts with Swift/Xcode for which there are no viable options available for iOS at all.


What will I miss?

The one thing that is definitely faster and more efficient on the iPad Pro is reading and marking up PDFs. Although regular web surfing and watching videos is very comfortable on the iPad while sitting on the sofa or lying in bed, I can live without it. Reading however ist much more comfortable on the iPad and is the most important feature I am about to miss.

ACERE 2017 schedule

I read a lot of documents, ranging from scientific journals and magazine articles to project reports and strategy documents among other things. I really enjoyed Papers for iPad (the best scientific reading and reference managing app I know – with still ample room for improvements I might add) and often used Dropbox in conjunction with Adobe Acrobat or GoodNotes 4. Papers is available for the MacOS as well, so everything is synced but I am still missing the comforts of reading on an iPad.


tl;dr

I am confident to be better off with the Macbook Pro as long as the pro apps do not offer more pro features on iOS. But still I am not sure wether the pain with the Macbook Pro while reading will be so intense over the next few months, that I might have a look at iPads once more down the road.

Archiving my last tumblr blog – Urban Storytelling

Urban Storytelling Animation

Back in 2015,  Jessica Broscheit, Hannes Sieg and myself created a tumblr blog to collect thoughts on urban storytelling, data driven narratives and visualisation of urban data, digital and tangible designs as well as art installations in urban spaces. All this related to research into data driven storytelling, open government data, knowledge discovery in databases (KDD), rapid prototyping and design thinking.

Some of the work led to projects such as How Will We Breath Tomorrow, a workshop led by Jessica Broscheit during A/D/A Hamburg 2016, as well as me participating as a mentor in Jeremy Bailey’s The Lean Artist Accelerator, a seed accelerator program for artists.

Since we all moved on, completed our research and are now involved in subsequent or different projects, no more content has been added to urban-storytelling.com for quite some time. In addition to the latest developments around tumblr and yahoo it makes no sense for me to keep the content up, so I cancelled the domain and closed the urban storytelling blog on tumblr for good.

Some of the content can be found on this website, but most posts were just links to interesting stuff related to urban storytelling, urban data, visualisations, map technology and data journalism. The links might be useful in the future and maybe I will put a post containing a list of them at some point.

Mentor at The Artist Entrepreneur – PRAKSIS summer 2017 residency program

In May 2017 I will join “The Artist Entrepreneur” residency program in Oslo as a mentor and once again work with famous new media artist Jeremy Bailey. We collaborated before, when I joined him in Hamburg as a mentor during the Lean Artist accelerator program in 2016. The PRAKSIS residency will take place from 21 May to 21 June 2017.

Artist Entrepreneurs - Save The World
Artist Entrepreneurs – Save The World

“PRAKSIS, Unge Kunstneres Samfund (UKS) and The Moving Museum are delighted to work with artist Jeremy Bailey(CA) to develop PRAKSIS’s summer 2017 residency The Artist Entrepreneur.

The average artist’s yearly earnings from art practice is estimated at less than $10,000 US dollars. In the wake of widespread public defunding of the arts, there is mounting pressure on artists and galleries to “innovate or die”. Emerging from this crisis is the seductive but problematic image of the Artist Entrepreneur, a creative entropic force, leveraging the tools of startup culture and capital to self-disrupt and innovate new models of artistic production. Should artists embrace, subvert or actively resist this new identity? What does it risk?

To find out, a group of artists will join forces with Famous New Media artist Jeremy Bailey in a one month residency at PRAKSIS in Oslo this summer. This group of revolutionaries will collectively define new manifestos for artists working in this era of increased uncertainty. Nothing less than the future of art is at stake.”

Source: MAY – JUNE 2017 // The Artist Entrepreneur

As part of the 1 month residency program based in Oslo and offered by UKS and The Moving Museum, I will once again assist artists from all over the world to understand the foundations and underlying mechanics of the startup economy and shed some light on business model design and high-growth venture financing as well as international entrepreneurial subsidy systems.

Hamburg’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem and the Next Media Initiative

Based on research into entrepreneurship policy done at UNSW in 2016, I completed my graduate studies at Hamburg University of Applied Sciences in December 2016 with a master thesis on the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Hamburg, Germany, and the entrepreneurship policy approach by the regional government.

The thesis is called “Hamburg’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem And The Next Media Initiative – Public Policy Towards Entrepreneurship” and focuses on Hamburg’s regional innovation strategy 2020 and the dedicated media/IT industry cluster initiative nextMedia.Hamburg. The abstract of the thesis can be found below.

master thesis


Introduction

Entrepreneurship, more specifically the formation of tech startups, is often attributed with economic growth and job creation due to their high-growth potential by many policy makers in the world. This link is widely debated in scientific literature, which does not necessarily seem to inform public policy.

The City of Hamburg established a Next Media Initiative – nextMedia.Hamburg – in 2014, focusing on media/IT industry related innovation to nurture the future development of this industry cluster with the help of high growth ventures.

This master thesis explores the composition of Hamburg’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, local government efforts to facilitate its development and the (dis)connect between municipal innovation policy and academic literature.

Method

With its nextMedia.Hamburg initiative within the media/IT industry cluster, the City of Hamburg aims to support the entrepreneurial ecosystem as well as the media and creative industry in general. In various official documents and on a dedicated nextMedia.Hamburg website the efforts to nurture innovation, to create more ventures and maintain Hamburg as a media industry capital are published.

This thesis will introduce the local entrepreneurial ecosystem along with its most relevant stakeholders and review the regional innovation strategy and nextMedia.Hamburg initiative in 3 parts.

Taking into consideration the current setup of Hamburg’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and its various entities, the first part will summarise salient points of the innovation strategy outlined by the City of Hamburg as well as key elements of the nextMedia.Hamburg initiative’s activities by which the regional government aims to attain its goals.

The second part takes relevant aspects of the outlined strategy and activities and reviews them from an academic perspective, considering arguments presented by Shane (2009), Audio et al. (2007), Morris et al. (2015), and Brown & Mawson (2015).

The third part draws on research findings to classify the outlined policy agenda and its measures to support the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Hamburg and discusses them in regards to Regional Innovation Systems (RIS) analysed by Moutinho et al. (2015) and the Triple Helix Approach (Ranga and Etzkowitz 2016) to asses their possible impact on the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Hamburg.

Results

This thesis makes 4 contributions. Foremost, several disconnects between local entrepreneurship policy in Hamburg and academic literature on entrepreneurship policy are explored by analysing both the regional innovation strategy and nextMedia.Hamburg initiative’s documents and activities. Additionally it is shown how relevant scientific findings have not been taken into consideration despite collaboration with research facilities at local universities.

Third, it is illustrated how the activities to nurture entrepreneurial activity by the nextMedia.Hamburg initiative lack a connection to actionable metrics to successfully measure results and adapt for change. As a fourth contribution, this thesis draws on common challenges in developing regional entrepreneurship policy and proposes closer collaboration between the research community, industry and policy makers.

Source: Recke, M. P., 2016. Hamburg’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem And The Next Media Initiative – Public Policy Towards Entrepreneurship.


Next Steps

I plan to take this research further in the future. Considering research findings on entrepreneurship policy effectiveness, emerging new transdisciplinary approaches can be utilized to develop a better understanding of underlying mechanics within entrepreneurial ecosystems and their impact on economic development.

For more information, feel free to contact me directly.

Apple acquired Workflow – The powerful workflow automation tool for iOS

When I was talking about my iPad Pro desktop replacement experiment, I mentioned Workflow, a powerful automation tool I use for tasks of many kinds on the iPad and iPhone. It lets you connect various features of many iOS apps in an easy to use interface that often reminds me of Apple Automator on the Mac, an application that Apple is slowly fading out in my opinion… or at least that is what I thought.

Workflow iOS app
Workflow iOS app

As it turned out, Apple just bought Workflow in March 2017, giving me new hope for more professional capabilities on iOS devices. Right now, the app provides the easiest way to generate workarounds for the various restrictions of many system and third party apps on iOS. For many things that are simple to do on a desktop machine, tasks need to be distributed between several iOS apps and chained together. Doing this manually takes forever, with Workflow it only takes longer than on a desktop machine.

With the acquisition I am hoping for a deeper integration into iOS that would allow for easier usage of workflows within and between apps. Also, I would consider it a good idea to broaden the number of preconfigured workflows to specifically target typical desktop tasks. If Apple is really serious about the iPad as desktop replacement, there is still much left to be done.

So I am looking forward to whatever will happen next.

Back at Sushi Ran

During my last trip to San Francisco in early 2017, I once again enjoyed an amazingly awesome omakase style dinner at the sushi bar at Sushi Ran. I have been there a few times and still enjoyed it as much as every time I went there.

Sushi Ran - table setup
Sushi Ran – table setup

First, I started with a moriawase 1o piece sashimi platter with aaa grade big eye tuna, yellowtail, ocean trout, bonito and barracuda at two pieces each. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures.


Omakase Sashimi

I opted for an 11 piece omakase sashimi plate after that and once again I was blown away. It came with uni (deep sea urchin), katsuo (cherrywood smoked bonito tuna), kamasu (barracuda), tennen hamachi (wild yellowtail), aji (horse mackerel), kusshi oyster, hotaru ika (baby firefly squid), kinmedai (golden eye snapper) and buri toro (wild yellowtail belly). This time I took some photos.


Omakase Nigiri

Since there was time for more, I switched to nigiri and tried some more of the sushi bar exclusives. I was served chu toro (medium fatty blue fin tuna belly), toro (fatty blue fin tuna belly), kasugodai (baby red snapper), kinmedia (golden eye snapper), kamasu (barracuda), mahatma (black grouper), buri toro (wild yellowtail belly), wagyu a5 beef striploin, shirayaki and unagi (two types of freshwater eel).

I never had black grouper before and liked it very much. The bluefin was also awesome, as was the barracuda. All in all it was as amazing as always.


I will surely be back next time I am in San Francisco.

For some reason I had more issues than usual with Japanese sushi terms and had to ask more than once about the variety of fish I could choose from. A few times I even had to take out my iPhone and look stuff up. That felt rather weird, considering I have been a rather frequent sushi eater. Also, it took far to long to find what I was looking for.

This is why I think I will come up with a chat bot to help me out next time. Wouldn’t you like that?